TAXI and private hire firms have been urged to set up a system to prioritise women travelling alone during the festive season.
Colin Keir, the Edinburgh Western MSP who previously sat on the council’s regulatory committee, which deals with taxi and private hire licensing, made the remarks as he encouraged all revellers to be “cabwise” this Christmas.
Some firms in Edinburgh already operate a single woman policy, where females travelling alone are bumped to the top of the queue to ensure they get home safely as quickly as possible. But Mr Keir has called for it to become the standard for all cab companies.
Mr Keir said: “It is excellent to hear that some of Edinburgh’s taxi companies operate a single woman policy and I would urge for all firms to adopt the same strategy.
“Private hires should always be booked in advance and never picked up off the street. When the taxi arrives, check the driver knows the name of the booking and is not an illegal driver trying their luck. Getting into an unlicensed vehicle is essentially the same as taking a lift from a stranger.”
Companies such as Edinburgh City Private Hire and Capital Cars prioritise bookings from women travelling alone all year round, with Capital Cars also offering a text service to all customers which lets them know the make and licence plate of the car they should expect, and when.
Capital Cars owner Stephen Rose said: “This text service is also very handy if you lose something in the car – all the details you need are right there.”
However, Central Taxis boss Tony Kenmuir said his company did not prioritise single women.
He said: “What we do is give priority to phone bookings. If we have a rush then our cars will switch off their ‘for hire’ signs and will not queue up at ranks or pick up in the street. We also give customers who call to book a ring when cars are outside. Our advice is to stay where you are and book a taxi, rather than wandering the streets looking for one.”
Jacq Kelly, chair of anti-street harassment campaign group Hollaback Edinburgh, welcomed the move, but cautioned that the aim of the policy could be seen as a “red herring”.
She said: “We welcome measures that protect women from sexual assault and it is helpful that some taxi companies are making it easier for women to feel safer with this policy. However, the focus on how women choose to travel is a red herring as most women are assaulted by someone they know.”
Councillor Gavin Barrie, convener of the regulatory committee, said: “We would strongly encourage people to make sure they get into licensed taxis or pre-booked private hire cars. The public can check that the vehicle carries the recognised taxi or private hire plates.”